Thursday, March 23, 2017

Role models

Radio Commentary

A study shows that stress from school hits students hard at all ages and grade levels.
In the study, students named more than 300 stress factors they felt at school. The number one stress was schoolwork itself. 
Contrary to myth, most students work hard at school and want to do well. Having difficulty can cause a great deal of stress.
More girls than boys cited social stresses, and peer pressure about their appearance. More boys than girls said they felt anxious about discipline. This dovetails with studies that show more boys are disciplined than girls.
Also listed were stresses ranging from riding the bus to preparing for a career.
Clearly, no student can lead a stress-free life — plus, that would be terrible preparation for the real world. But we know that an overload of stress can cause physical and emotional problems that compound the situation.
 For this reason, it is a good idea to reduce some of the stress in children’s lives. Methods include using alternative forms of discipline and increasing cooperative activities.
It’s also critical to understand that each child is different, and matures at a different rate.
This knowledge prevents us from creating a one-size-fits-all situation where deviations from the norm create an additional form of undue stress.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Building motor skills

Radio Commentary

Children’s work is play. Much is learned through simple games and activities. In fact, play is important in helping children build basic motor skills like running, jumping, throwing, and catching.
Play helps build muscles and aerobic capacity in young bodies. It allows children to release energy and tensions.
Play also teaches social skills. It can increase self-esteem, help strengthen and build attention spans, and improve physical coordination.
To help your child develop basic motor skills during playtime you might consider the following activities:
Use bright, colorful balls when playing ball games because these are easy for children’s eyes to follow.
It helps keep their attention and makes it easier for their eyes to follow the motion.
Use slow, consistent pitches when tossing to your child. Practice makes perfect — for them and for you!
Practice the same skill in different ways to keep your child interested. Run races today. Play tag tomorrow. The skills are the same but the game seems very different. This helps prevent boredom or distraction.
Give brief instructions that are easy to follow, like “Watch the ball.” Long-winded explanations about why it’s important to watch the ball can lead a child’s mind to wander.
Remember that children tire easily, so keep periods of vigorous activity short. When children are young, it’s always better to schedule several short activities rather than one long one.
It helps keep you fresh as well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thinking ahead

Radio Commentary

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to anticipate it and head it off in the first place. It’s a skill that involves foresight and anticipation.
To help your teens develop these traits, bring up a situation that worries you and ask what they would do in that circumstance.
Listen carefully to their reactions. Treat their opinions with respect. Make suggestions, but avoid the temptation to lecture. That rarely works.
If you disagree with the approach that your teen has provided, ask her to consider alternative actions. Discuss different ways of reacting to a peer pressure situation.
Talk about the benefits and consequences of various alternatives. Have your teen figure out the best course of action based upon those consequences.
Leave the discussion open for further consideration, and make clear that you are always available to help clarify matters or offer suggestions.
If you don’t appear to be lecturing or judging, your teen is more likely to take you up on that offer.
The goal is to help your child think through issues calmly — not to force your opinion or get a reluctant promise.
Considering options in advance can head off problems before they arise and give your children the tools they need to react in a positive and productive way.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Science skills

Radio Commentary

The principles of science form an umbrella over almost everything we do. Many educators feel that science is also one of the most innately interesting subject areas for children.  
But sometimes a sheer love of science can get bogged down in the details of memorization of abstract concepts.
To help your child develop an interest in science, try these tips:
  Discuss family eating habits in terms of how the body uses various kinds of food. The body can be viewed as a machine, and food as the fuel.
  After you have removed all electrical cords, encourage children to tinker with old clocks or broken appliances to see what makes them “tick”  
  Try to hide any distaste you might have for your child’s interest in insects, scummy water, and other unappetizing aspects of nature. 
Children often find these natural items fascinating and should be encouraged to learn about their environment.
  Demonstrate scientific thinking by challenging general statements with the question, “How do you know that’s true?” It helps children understand the difference between opinion and fact.
  Encourage any interest in collecting rocks, leaves, shells, or other natural objects. Provide a place to display and observe the collections.
Explore the many opportunities for science-related outings in our own county, so you can make learning a fun family affair.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Listening ladder

Radio Commentary

Listening is a critical skill for success. It is often in short supply, which makes it all the more valuable.
In fact, becoming a better listener is beneficial to anyone who wants to communicate effectively.
Listening well helps build stronger relationships, and is useful in resolving disputes. Most importantly, listening is the key to acquiring knowledge.
Here are six steps that can help anyone become a more skilled listener and climb the ladder of success. The six steps spell out
For “L”: Look at the person you are speaking to.
For “A”: Ask questions to make sure you understand.
For “D”: Don’t interrupt.
For the next “D”: Don’t change the subject.
For “E”: Empathize with the speaker. Try to feel what they are feeling.
For “R”: Respond verbally and nonverbally, with nods, smiles, and spoken responses.
Going through these steps can help anyone become a better listener, and for students this is an especially helpful tool.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Accountability, transparency, and continuous improvement

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

“Knowledge is power,” Francis Bacon once said. The California Department of Education, as part of its commitment to continuous improvement, accountability, and transparency, has been developing a dashboard to help educators, parents, and communities across the state access important information about K-12 districts and schools.

You might ask, why a dashboard and how does that relate to “knowledge is power?” Think of it this way: You can’t drive a car by only watching the speedometer. You also keep your eye on the road, check the mirrors, monitor the gas tank, and pay attention if the engine light comes on. Similarly, the California School Dashboard features easy-to-read reports on multiple measures of school success, including test scores, graduation rates, English learner progress, and suspension rates. The Dashboard is part of California’s new school accountability system, which recognizes California’s future success depends on tapping into the potential of all students, so they graduate ready for college, careers, and life. For schools to reach this goal, teachers, parents and the community need clear and useful measures of progress.

In the past, accountability systems for districts and schools relied solely on test scores. But one test taken on one particular day doesn’t provide a complete picture of all the ways schools are helping students succeed. The focus on multiple measures will help all districts target areas to grow and improve.

Further, highlighting different aspects of student performance in an easy to digest way will give a more complete and understandable picture of a school’s progress. The Dashboard also reports on growth to show a school’s trajectory over time, while helping districts see disparities in achievement across various groups of students or schools.

As an accountability tool, the Dashboard will also help the state identify schools, including charter schools, and districts needing targeted assistance.

The Dashboard is a work in progress, and metrics and reports will be added over time. It recognizes that the exciting and institutional changes taking place in education will take time to fully implement, and requires an ongoing conversation with our community on both how we’re doing and how we can do better.

To assist in those conversations, the Dashboard is being designed as a transparency tool so parents and community members can sit in the driver’s seat looking at a dashboard that provides the multiple indicators needed to be fully participating partners.

I applaud the California Department of Education and school districts for their continued and strong commitment to a series of shifts in public education that has raised the bar for student learning, transformed testing, and places the focus on equity for all students.

As businessman Donald Bren said, “Future public education will require involvement and collaboration among various local, civic, private and non-profit entities, a concept referred to as community entrepreneurship.” The Dashboard is a tool that enables and strengthens that partnership and
entrepreneurship on behalf of our children.

Using time well

Radio Commentary

No matter how busy parents are, there are things they can do to help their children succeed in school.
To start, it’s important to organize your time. Try to plan work and activities around school and practice schedules.
Also plan to do a few things at once. For example a child could start doing homework in the car while the family is waiting for an older sibling to get out of school. 
The car is also a quiet place where parents and children can talk together uninterrupted.
It’s also a good idea to find other people to help. A babysitter can sometimes help with homework. Grandparents who live nearby can often lend a hand with carpooling.
Friends and neighbors are often willing to trade services and pitch in when needed.
Alternative scheduling can also make a big difference. Though many parents check homework at night, it sometimes works better for parents to do it in the morning, while a child is eating breakfast.
If work schedules make it possible to have only a quick dinner in the evenings, try to compensate in the mornings with a big, hot breakfast.
Also remember that weekend schedules can make up for weekday shortfalls. 
And finally, it’s a good idea to figure out a way to help at school even if your work schedule is complicated.
Be flexible and creative. But find ways to stay involved.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sleep for teens

Radio Commentary

For years parents and educators have known that many teens do not get enough sleep to meet their health needs. Now there is a new culprit: their smart phones.
Parents may be unaware that many teens sleep with their smart phones by their side, answering calls or text messaging throughout the night.
Research has documented that, on average, teenagers have traditionally gotten about two hours less sleep every night than they need. This increases their risk of accidents and makes them moody.
In the past, this was caused by teens generally staying up too late and waking too early for the needs of their bodies. But these figures were calculated BEFORE the prevalence of smart phones.
According to research, teen bodies need nine hours and fifteen minutes of sleep per night. Prior to the advent of smart phones as bedmates, teens were getting an average of only seven hours of sleep per night. Now the numbers are far lower.
And fitful sleep, in short bursts, is not as healthful as uninterrupted sleep, so the health implications are far more grave than ever.
For example, of the estimated 100,000 car crashes a year linked to drowsy driving, almost half involve drivers age 16-24, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What’s more, like all of us, teens get more emotional when they are sleep-deprived.
The best thing a parent can do to help teens get the sleep they need is to make sure there is no smart phone by their side when they go to bed. Period. Turn it off and take it away. It’s good parenting.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Children need consistency

Radio Commentary

Children need consistency. They thrive on routines and consistent responses. It helps bring order to their world in a way they can handle.
Children are also more likely to listen when they can anticipate the responses they will receive from their parents.
Being consistent with discipline is especially important. And it’s critically important for both parents to be on the same page with discipline, whether they live in the same household or not.
For this reason, parents should agree together on the disciplinary techniques they will use, and when they will be called into play.
If you disagree, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance to help mediate these differences, because they are important for the sake of the children involved.
In fact, professional assistance, when needed, creates a safe space for discussing these issues, which works to everyone’s advantage.
It’s a rare parent who has never felt embarrassed, frustrated, or angry by their child’s behavior at one time or another. Having both parents react the same way, or use the same disciplinary techniques, helps a child understand boundaries and consequences.
The goal is to raise a happy and healthy child, who understands there are limits in the world, and very specific consequences if those limits are reached.
Having both parents approach these issues in a consistent way creates an environment where children can thrive — and that’s the bottom line for all of us.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Talk to your child

Radio Commentary

Books, magazines, and talk show hosts all bombard parents with advice on how best to raise their children. But there is simply no substitute for a caring adult who spends quality time with a child. 
Children pick up language skills and knowledge about the world around them during interesting conversations with responsible adults in their lives.
In daily life, parents can help by pointing out and reading printed words that appear in a child’s environment — signs on storefronts, labels on jars, and titles of television shows. 
Even toddlers can share in making grocery lists and checking them off at the store as each item is found. 
Above all, talk to your child whenever possible. There is no substitute for a focused, interactive conversation between children and trusted adults.
Parents can sing songs and tell stories whenever the opportunity arises. The rhythms and sounds of language fascinate children and lead to future learning.
That’s why children love nursery rhymes, though the actual words can seem to make little sense to adults.
It’s the sounds of the language and the word-play that children find so appealing, and it gets imbedded in their consciousness. In a very real sense, language is like music to a child’s ears.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Managing stress

Radio Commentary

Stress is the reaction of our minds and bodies to unsettling experiences. Too much stress can have negative consequences and can even make us ill.
For this reason, the things that cause stress in children should be taken seriously before they become a serious problem.
What are the signs of a distressed child?
Anger, aggressiveness, anxiety, crankiness, bedwetting.
Crying too easily, overeating, increased clumsiness, hair twisting, teeth clenching.
Fighting with other children, or withdrawing from them.
Failing at school.
Causes of stress can lurk anywhere. They include pressure from home or school, such as being too busy with overloaded schedules.
Family changes such as divorce or remarriage can also be a cause, along with feeling unloved or misunderstood.
Children cannot analyze events that cause stress  – or control their reactions to those events – as well as adults can, so they do need guidance.
Family support is a vital antidote to stress, so be sure create time to relax and talk together.  
Curb access to violent TV shows and movies. Keep daily life calm. A pet can be a good buffer and an emotional refuge.
Relaxed parents, who cope positively with their own stress, pass on these skills to children. It’s also helpful to maintain a network of friends and activities outside the home.
This type of support and acceptance plays a very helpful role.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Larsen ‘instrumental’ to teaching

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

It is always a joy to shine a bright light on outstanding teachers, and Brett Larsen is one of the very best. A music teacher at Adams School in Santa Barbara, he received the second annual Santa Barbara County Performing Arts Teacher of the Year award this year, and his beaming students stand in testament to the merits of that honor.

Larsen works musical magic, helping scores of students find their passion and an excitement for school. All 4th graders at Adams learn to play the violin, and 5th and 6th graders learn to play either a wind or string instrument. After hours, Larsen also teaches an all-school chorus program twice a week, and serves as co-leader of Bravo, the district’s elementary honor band. Bravo students have performed in the State Street Holiday Parade, the Milpas Parade, and for the City Council, and they are all special thrills for the students who take part.

“It’s a thrill that invariably translates to the classroom, too,” he says.

The studies bear him out. It’s been demonstrated that arts education plays a critical role in developing initiative, creative ability, self-expression, self-reflection, thinking skills, discipline, and a heightened appreciation of beauty and cross-cultural understandings. Most important, many young people find great joy in artistic expression. It helps keep them connected to their teachers and their schools.

This is where Larsen is a true master, encouraging students in ways teachers of other disciplines cannot always do as easily.

His personal route to teaching is also instructive. The Orcutt native moved to Manhattan a year before completing his degree at UCSB to spend a year working for a small record label. Then he returned to finish his degree in music composition and spent several years working at Cymbeline Records in Santa Barbara while also moonlighting for a record producer in town. He also tried working in Information Technology for a while.

His sister, a kindergarten teacher in Texas, recognized his restlessness and suggested he might be happy as a music teacher. She was right.

He started working on a credential at Cal Lutheran. “The more I did it, the more I loved it,” he says, “and the more excited I got about my future. Once I got into the classroom, I knew I’d found my niche.”

His background as practitioner gives an extra layer of texture to his teaching and it’s clear his students love what he teaches and how he does it. He goes out of his way to pay tribute to the community partnerships that have played a part in helping unlock students’ musical potential: the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, the Santa Barbara Bowl, and Village Properties, among others.

Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Brent Larsen is the embodiment of that art. He stands as an impressive representative of all the fine teachers in our county who touch lives and make a difference every single day, through their enthusiasm, their passion, and their skill. We salute them all. And we especially applaud Brett Larsen for being named Santa Barbara County Performing Arts Teacher of the Year.

San Marcos High School Mock Trial Team advances to state competition

News release

The San Marcos High School Mock Trial Team defeated Dos Pueblos High School in a close competition on Saturday, March 4, at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. San Marcos will represent Santa Barbara County at the State Mock Trial competition in Riverside March 24-26. The winner of the state event will then move on to the national finals.

Eight teams from seven schools throughout Santa Barbara County competed in the 34th annual Mock Trial competition, which began Feb. 25. Participating high schools were Cabrillo, Carpinteria, Dos Pueblos (two teams), Laguna Blanca, San Marcos, Santa Barbara, and Santa Ynez Union.

The Mock Trial competition is designed to immerse high school students in key concepts of the law, the Constitution, and the U.S. legal system. The students study case law, read broadly and critically, and build evidence-based arguments and counter arguments. They prepare to be grilled not only by their formidable competitors, but also by sitting judges who challenge their thinking.

On Feb. 25, two rounds of competition resulted in four high school teams — two from Dos Pueblos and one each from San Marcos and Santa Barbara high schools — progressing to the semifinals and finals that were held March 4. Judge Brian Hill, a long-time advocate for Mock Trial competition, presided over the morning semifinal round, along with Judge Kay Kuns and attorneys Sue McCollum and John Thyne. Judge Patricia Kelly and local attorney Steve Amerikaner presided over the final round.

Prior to announcing that San Marcos had taken the title, Judge Kelly shared a very inspirational message for the students about her own experience as a long-time supporter of Mock Trial, beginning in high school as a participant, and as a Mock Trial coach, scorer, and ultimately as a presider.

The San Marcos team was also presented a $2,500 check from the Santa Barbara County Bar Association to help with the travel costs associated with the state tournament later this month.

Other presiders for the two weekends of competition included Judge Thomas P. Anderle, Judge Clifford Anderson, Judge Michael Carrozzo, Judge Donna Geck, Judge Pauline Maxwell, Judge Raimundo Montes De Oca, and retired Judge George Eskin, along with Tom Hinshaw, Von Deroian, Benjamin Ladinig, and Jeff Chambliss.

Local attorney Danielle DeSmeth once again headed up the volunteer scorers’ training, and over 50 local attorneys volunteered their time over the two weekends to hear and score the trial.

“We congratulate the winning team from San Marcos, and we are grateful for the skill, commitment, passion, and generosity of all the community partners who made this competition possible for the Mock Trial participants,” said County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office sponsors the competition with the Santa Barbara Superior Court and the Constitutional Rights Foundation. “These young men and women develop lifelong critical thinking skills along with lifetime memories, and we truly appreciate all that these volunteers do to enrich our students’ educational experience.”

Winning Mock Trial team from San Marcos HS
(Photo credit: Luis Medina)

Teen search for identity

Radio Commentary

Young children tend to accept the values of their parents without question. They have been exposed to few alternatives, so they rely on their parents to understand what is right and wrong.

As children grow older, however, they begin to think about a variety of options and they are likely to question the values around them. This is a normal process that almost all teens will go through.

The act of questioning should not be viewed as a challenge to the beliefs of the parents. Rather, it is a normal means of consolidating a set of values as the foundation for the practices of a lifetime.

Friends are important in this process. Teenagers need reactions, and their fellow teens will listen and give honest opinions.

The key for parents is to shore up their teen’s self-confidence and not over-react to ideas that might be floated out just for effect.

Teens who are unsure of themselves, and want to be accepted, are more likely to give in to negative peer pressure. They want to be liked and they want to have their ideas approved. They will seek that approval wherever they can find it.

Teens who have plenty of confidence will be affected by input from their friends but are less likely to be dominated by it. They have a sense of inner strength and self-worth that they will not want to jeopardize.

So be sure to show your teens you love and respect them. Knowing they can count on you helps with their decision-making, and helps keep them grounded in the values of the family unit.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Birth to one

Radio Commentary

Babies grow and change dramatically during their first year.

They begin to develop some control over their bodies — they hold up their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl, and some even walk.

They also become aware of themselves as separate from others. They learn to look at their hands and toes and play with them. They recognize their own names, and they may cry when their parents leave.

Communication and language skills also begin to form in the first year. First, babies cry and make throaty noises. Later they babble and make lots of sounds. Then they begin to name a few close people and objects.

Playing games becomes an important part of child development.

They begin by playing with their hands and then show an interest in toys by banging them together. Eventually, they carry around dolls or stuffed toys.

During this critical first year, babies require a loving caregiver who responds quickly to their cries and gurgles.

They need someone who gets to know their special qualities and can keep them safe and comfortable.

They also need opportunities to move around and practice new physical skills, along with a supply of safe objects to look at, grab, bang, pat, and roll.

They need safe play areas and the chance to hear people talking as they learn to make their own sounds.

It’s a time of rapid growth, and loving caregivers make a real difference.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rotary Club recognizes Adams Elementary School teacher

News release

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara recently recognized Adams Elementary School teacher Mallory Price for her demonstrated excellence and significant contributions to public education. It is the third of four such awards the Rotarians will present to area educators this academic year.

Price has been a kindergarten teacher at Adams for five years. Prior to teaching at Adams, Price was an instructional assistant at Summerland School.

Since 1986, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary, and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.

“We appreciate the vision, caring, and commitment of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara in making annual awards that recognize the contributions of outstanding teachers, while providing resources that enable them to enrich their classroom environments,” said County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Our teachers are second to none and perform daily heroic acts on behalf of students and families.”

“The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara is committed to supporting the Santa Barbara County Education Office, and it gives us great pleasure to recognize the efforts of outstanding teachers like Mallory Price,” said Mike Bieza, chairman of the Teacher Recognition Committee of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Rotary of Santa Barbara and Rotary International members know that educators like Mallory have a tremendous impact on their students, who one day will be the leaders of our community.”

Education is a family tradition for Mallory. Her mother is long-time local educator and current Cold Spring School District Superintendent Dr. Tricia Price. “We are a family full of educators,” Mallory says. Price earned an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Washington in Seattle, and her teaching credential and Masters in Education from Antioch University in Santa Barbara. She is currently working on her doctorate in education from Fielding University, following in her mother’s footsteps. Her dissertation focuses on supporting English learners with writing.

“I am passionate about teaching reading and writing, which makes kindergarten the perfect place for me,” Mallory says. “I get to participate in the literacy development of my students every year, watching them grow from being eager to read and write to being enthusiastic and confident readers and writers. I have a particular passion for teaching writing.”

That passion is evident, says Mallory’s principal, Amy Alzina. “Mallory believes in providing all students a highly rigorous and engaging curriculum that involves hands-on learning through all the senses,” Alzina says. “Mallory uses her communication and interpersonal relationship skills to serve as an advocate for low socio-economic and minority children in the community.”

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Mallory Price

County Science Fair slated for March 10

News Release

More than 100 students from across the county will share a day of competition and camaraderie on Friday, March 10, at the 62nd annual Santa Barbara County Science Fair.

The exhibits by junior high and senior high students from across the county will be open for public viewing in UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., when the awards ceremony begins. At stake is more than $3,000 in prizes as well as advancement to the California State Science Fair on April 24-25, and the Broadcom MASTERS national science and engineering competition.

In addition to the competition, students will get to see and touch cutting-edge research as they participate in a Science Expo presented by the California Nanosystems Institute.

The Santa Barbara County Science Fair is organized by a volunteer committee and coordinated in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO). Members of the committee are individuals and representatives of businesses and community groups who are dedicated to raising the profile and quality of science education in the county. The fair is supported by local organizations, including generous donations from the University of California, Raytheon, and the Santa Barbara Science and Engineering Council.

For more information visit or email Science Fair President Shea Lovan at

Arts Education Month

Arts Education Month

March is Arts Education Month, focusing on dance, drama, music, and the visual arts – which are essential parts of basic education for all students.

There is no doubt that the arts should play a major role in the education of young people.

Visual and performing arts are a form of expression and communication essential to the human experience, and they deserve a regular place in our classrooms.

Arts education plays a critical role in developing initiative, creativity, self-expression, self-reflection, thinking skills, discipline, an appreciation of beauty, and cross-cultural understandings.

Many young people find great joy in artistic expression. For some, it can be an outlet and a source of inspiration. It helps keep them connected to their teachers and their schools.

Many professional arts education associations hold celebrations in March, giving California schools a unique chance to focus on the value of the arts for all students.

The current California arts education policy states that each student should receive a high-quality, comprehensive arts education.

The state arts task force that I chaired several years ago made recommendations we hope will result in a renaissance in arts education.

Celebrating Arts Education Month is one way to support the important efforts to keep the arts in our classrooms.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Detail skills

Radio Commentary

People generally talk about reading and writing together. Certainly, many of the skills that make children successful at one make them good at the other.
For example, one important reading skill that benefits from writing practice is identifying details.
Parents should encourage children to provide details in their own oral and written stories. This will help them become more aware of the way other authors use detail.
One writing exercise requiring details is to have children give directions. Ask them to write very specifically how to get from home to school, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
When children write thank-you notes to friends or relatives, have them describe in detail the item and how they will use it.
Children can also take the clipboard along on family outings. Ask them to describe the “prettiest” thing they see on the trip, or the most “unusual.” Then challenge them to list as many details as they can, including shapes, colors, textures, and impressions.
One way teachers measure improvement in young writers is to look at their use of details. The same is also true for improving reading comprehension: details matter.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Advising preteens

Radio Commentary

I’ve heard some parents express concern that their preteens don’t listen to them.

This is because preteens may adopt an oblivious attitude or appear to “tune out.”

But parents should not underestimate their influence. Preteens want to know their parents’ opinions and values. They only tune out when parents lecture, preach, or scold. 

So, a helpful tool for communication with preteens is to express your opinions indirectly. 

For example, you might comment on the behavior of a television character to get a point across.

If a character is driving recklessly, you could say, “It seems he’s being awfully irresponsible about his friend’s safety.” 

This kind of statement is usually more effective with preteens than a direct statement like “How could he be so reckless?” or “Don’t you ever drive like that!” 

Along the same lines, if your preteen wants to see a movie that you consider controversial, you might go see it with her and then ask her opinions about it. 

Instead of lecturing about how bad the movie was, ask what she thought about the characters’ actions and decisions. 

This will not only give you insight into her thinking, but can help you get your values across. 

Finally, modeling the way you want your children to act can be a very useful way of ‘giving advice’ silently. It works. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Helping a cause

Radio Commentary

It’s important for children to learn how to be good citizens, and one of the best teaching methods is for parents to model the right behavior.
One good place to start is to find at least one cause or need in your community where you can volunteer your help.
Let your children know why you think that area is important, and spell out for them how you are trying to help. Let your child join you if he or she wants.
Most children will be eager to become involved — but don’t force it if they’re not.
It’s important to let each child choose where and how to help, so they can take ownership in the progress that is made.
Opportunities range from helping other young people or senior citizens, to helping animals, or tackling an environmental project.
It’s also good to find and share success stories with your children.
It’s easy for any one of us to become overwhelmed by the problems in the community or the world. But the truth is that individuals can and do make a difference.
Talk to your children about the importance of joining forces. Encourage them to involve their friends or classmates in tackling big projects such as a creek or playground cleanup.
All these activities help reinforce the actions of good citizens. They help plant the seeds that individuals make a difference, and that in a democratic society we all have a responsibility to do things “for the good of the order.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Not just workers

Radio Commentary

Respected author Jonathan Kozol, who is an outspoken supporter of public education, takes issue with the idea that the primary purpose of education should be to create the next workforce.
He wrote: “The notion of kids as workers raises a question: Is future productivity the only rationale for their existence?”
“A lot of the things that make existence wonderful are locked out of the lives of children seen primarily as future clerical assistants or as potential recruits to office pools.”
Certainly education must prepare young people to be productive adults. But there is danger in focusing exclusively on the employment aspect of their lives, he wrote.
We can’t overlook that they will also need to be consumers, voters, audience members, and participants in our entire culture.
They may well be parents or volunteers, and may have a hand in running a household or a committee.
They may coach, they may tutor, they may recycle. After they work, they will likely retire and have more years to contribute and enjoy life well beyond the activities of the workforce.
Kozol argues passionately that we must remember all these roles that citizens fill in our democratic society.
We must absolutely acknowledge that most will be workers and must be prepared for those roles. But we must also keep that goal firmly rooted in the context of an overall productive existence.
Otherwise, he warns, we remove the joy that connects young people to their communities and gives meaning to their lives.